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President Biden Visits Surfside, Meets With First Responders & Victims’ Families

Mª del Rosario Castro Díaz Mª del Rosario Castro Díaz

President Biden Visits Surfside, Meets With First Responders & Victims’ Families

President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden made their way to Surfside on Thursday morning, July 1, to thank first responders and meet up with the families of the victims of the Champlain Towers South collapse.

President Joe Biden arrived at Miami International Airport on Thursday morning to meet with local officials and first responders who are working around the clock at the Surfside collapse site and offer comfort to the grieving families of the Champlain Towers victims.

The president and First Lady Jill Biden were rushed to the St. Regis Bal Harbour resort just north of the wreckage site on Thursday morning as rescue teams paused their efforts due to the current instability of the wreckage. Earlier the same day, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava assured the president’s visit had been organized so as to not interfere with the ongoing work on site.

The president first met up with a few of Florida’s elected officials, including Mayor Levine Cava, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis who have been working on-site for the past few days as well as Florida’s two Republican senators, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott were also at the meeting. There he was briefed on the current situation of the wreckage site.

SAUL LOEB / AFP

“This is life and death,” Biden said during the briefing from officials about the collapse. “We can do it, just the simple act of everyone doing what needs to be done makes a difference.”

“You all know it because a lot of you have been through it as well. There’s gonna be a lot of pain and anxiety and suffering and even the need for psychological help in the days and months that follow. And so, we’re not going anywhere,” he continued.

President Biden added that the federal government would possibly be able to cover the full cost of the ongoing rescue and recovery mission. “I think I have the power to be able to pick up 100% of the costs from the county, the state. I think I’m quite sure I can do that. And, and so we’re going to do that.”

Around noon, the president and the First Lady then met up with some of the first responders who have been working against the clock and crushing heat to save as many of the missing residents as possible.  “I just wanted to come down and say thanks,” he told them, while First Lady Jill Biden stood by him. “What you’re doing here is incredible, having to deal with the uncertainty.”

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Biden continued to offer his profuse thanks to the team of uniformed officers referencing the car crash and a house fire as instances in which him and his family needed to rely on them. “Until we need you, no one fully appreciates what you do. But I promise you — we know. We know.”

SAUL LOEB / AFP

The president who has been receiving regular updates on the building collapse from FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell is also expected to meet privately for several hours with family members of those affected by the collapse before delivering his remarks on Thursday afternoon.

After a week of tireless work at the wreckage site, search and rescue teams have already cleared more than 14 million pounds of debris and have been able to recover the bodies of 18 missing residents. The latest victims to be identified were sisters Lucia Guara, 10, and Emma Guara, 4, who were recovered on Wednesday. 142 people are still missing.

However, the search and rescue teams have been forced to stop their work earlier on Thursday mornings after authorities voiced their concern that the remaining structure of the 12-story building could topple. During a news briefing on Thursday morning, Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said search and rescue teams were forced to halt operations because of “structural concerns,” but would resume their efforts as soon as it is safe to do so. “Our engineers are continuing to monitor the structure,” she said.

The teams are also bracing for the fifth tropical storm of the season, which is set to be hitting South Florida early next week and which could hinder the rescue and recovery efforts.

This is a developing story, further details will be added as they become available. 

See also: Paramount Miami Worldcenter Will Be Lighting Up Every Night To Honor Those Still Missing In The Surfside Collapse

Featured image by SAUL LOEB /AFP